Not Just Nonsense
Last week, I gave a presentation to members of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy on the use of social networking tools in government. In accordance with our developing practice, I am posting the slides here on our blog. The presentation was also videoed and, for those of you who really need to get a life, we’ll post the links to the video once they are available. In the mean time, the gist of the discussion follows.
Since government first started to think about social media as a policy tool, the social networking landscape has hardly stood still. Sites and tools abound and usage continues to grow, perhaps exponentially amongst some classes of users. Not surprisingly, the volume of traffic has increased equally quickly. In popular belief, most of this traffic is nonsense. It’s a mistake to think this. Most of it is of the nature of normal social discourse – the stuff we share at barbecues, on the sidelines of our children’s sporting fields and around coffee at work. Those conversations are mostly ephemeral: there is nothing to note and little to remember. But, occasionally, something catches our interest. The challenge for government is twofold – how to both find and be that thing.
There is a growing number of examples demonstrating that governments are learning to effectively use social media for a range of purposes. The use of Facebook and Twitter by the Queensland Police Service’s media unit is the stand-out example of how to handle emergency management communications. Many agencies have established information or consultation mechanisms on AGIMO’s govspace platform – over 50 to date. AGIMO itself has developed a solid body of work around the use of this blog to consult with industry and other stakeholders on procurement matters. Our colleagues in the skills area have maintained a useful presence on Facebook to assist in the recruitment of entry-level government IT positions.
The South Australian Government’s use of social media to develop its strategic plan has shown how a sustained campaign can develop a significant base of stakeholders, eager to remain engaged. Participation in developing government’s direction has been popular among internet-enabled citizens. Both the US and the UK have created e-petition sites. These have experienced a high degree of interest but have also demonstrated that motivated individuals don’t necessarily offer policy suggestions on which governments are ready to act – capital punishment and the legislation of marijuana being cases in point.
Open data sites are also attracting interest. Data.gov.au has over 850 data sets from 110 agencies and sports 15 applications so far. While there’s no doubt that there are more data sets on the UK and US sites, the open government direction is also being reflected in the Information Publication Scheme sections and the FOI Disclosure Logs now apparent on most Australian Government agency websites.
There is now a range of useful aids to assist agencies and individuals in government wishing to develop their social media skills. Following the #gov2au hashtag on Twitter is a useful place to start, as it continues to be something of a hub for these matters. Finally, as the latest survey of the use of e-government shows, social media looks like it’s here to stay – successful public policy practitioners need to get, and stay, on board.
Comments are welcome.
- Not Just Nonsense Presentation Slides PDF (3,346KB)
- Not Just Nonsense Presentation Slides DOC (1,204KB)